NPD: Chromebooks outsell Windows laptops

For businesses, tablets are on the decline and laptops are rising once again. And Chromebooks aren't just for consumers looking for cheap laptops.

Many people have resisted the idea that Chromebooks really were growing in popularity. Now, less five years after the first commercial Chromebook, the Samsung Series 5 and Acer Chromebook went on sale, NPD, the global retail research group, is reporting that Chromebook sales in June and early July had exceeded "sales of Windows notebooks ... passing the 50 percent market share threshold."

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Overall, according to NPD, "Chromebook sales through the U.S. B2B channels increased 43 percent during the first half of 2015." For retailers and resellers this was good news because it helped to keep overall Business to Business (B2B) PC and tablet sales from falling.

This comes after a year, 2014, when Google OS-equipped, Android and Chrome, devices saw a 29 percent increase, propelled primarily by Chromebook sales, while Apple devices, mostly iPads, dropped by 12 percent and Windows devices, largely laptops, declined by 8 percent.

So far this year, Chromebooks have made notebooks the strongest B2B corporate client devices. Overall Chromebooks sales are up in U.S. B2B channels by 43 percent.

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It wasn't just Chromebooks selling well. Apple MacBook sales increased 27 percent year-to-date while Windows laptops grew 3 percent.

If you still think the PC is dead and that tablets will rule, think again. NPD numbers prove that IT pros and businesses are still buying laptops.

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The latest Chromebook for the office boasts a 12 hour battery life, full HD display and glass trackpad, not to mention simple support options and a reasonably low cost of $399.

As NPD VP of industry analysis Stephen Baker said in a statement, "In B2B channels the notebook remains the device of choice for the vast amount of purchasers, with sales volumes more than triple that of tablets. For B2B productivity and the best mix of affordability, form and function, the notebook remains the workhorse device purchased through B2B channels for businesses, education, and government organizations."

Overall, sales of PCs and tablets via US channels were flat. That's in large part because even though tablets sales slowed their decline, they were still down 7 percent following this market's 12 percent decline in the first half of 2014. In specific, iPads dropped nearly 20 percent and Android Tablets 8 percent, but Windows tablets, the Surface in particular, grew by 35 percent over the prior year.

On the other hand, Surface tablet numbers weren't that big to begin with. For example, Microsoft sold a million Surfaces in Microsoft's 2nd quarter of 2015, while Apple sold 21.5 million iPads over the same quarter.

In short, for businesses, tablets are on the decline and laptops are rising once again. As Baker observed, "Windows was not impacted by the upcoming release of Windows 10, MacBooks grew the most of any platform, and Google saw Chrome rise to take the number one spot in market share. All these results continue to point to strong channel demand for PCs and continue to belie the notion that any other devices are threatening the long-term business case for the notebook."

While B2B devices sales are only a sliver of the overall computer market, these results signal a significant trend. It will be interesting to see just how broadly Chromebooks are deployed in enterprise settings beyond education.

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